Friday, May 10, 2013

Frankenfoods: Good for Big Business, bad for the rest of us | Grist

Thirty years ago, scientists figured out how to directly modify the genes in our food crops. No more of that inefficient and slow breeding! Farmers would grab plant genes by the horns nucleotides and bend them to their will!

Now, the preeminent science journal Nature has devoted an entire issue to the question (to paraphrase that legendary IBM ad), where are the magic seeds? We were going to get seeds that would grow faster, yield more, save the environment, and be more nutritious. What we got were seeds for a few commodity crops such as corn, soy, and cotton that made their own pesticide or resisted herbicides, but otherwise provided little, if any, benefit to consumers.

Nonetheless, Nature assures us that the magic seeds are on the way. What the journal doesn’t say explicitly, however, is that there’s evidence that for existing GMO seeds, the best days are already over — and the next generation of seeds may be doomed even before they’re in the ground.

Of course, you’ll have to forgive the large biotechnology companies like Monsanto and Syngenta for thinking that they did in fact supply magic seeds. After all, as Nature observes, every year, farmers worldwide plant $15 billion worth of GMO seeds, covering about 420 million acres — an area larger than Texas and California combined — much of it on U.S. land. And those biotech companies earned tens of billions in profits off of them.

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Frankenfoods: Good for Big Business, bad for the rest of us | Grist

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